Wanna Be An Epidemiologist

Hello All!
I’m totally excited to have stumbled across this website and the forums. I honestly thought that I was wacked out of my head when contemplating a return to school in order to pursue a health degree. I have pretty much been told outright that I’m too old to go back to school (age: 36), and that I should just stay where I am. Problem is, I’ve been miserable for years. I’m a liberal arts grad who wants to be a scientist. Do they have operations for that?
I’m in the process of applying for a Post Bacc program at UCLA in Introductory Sciences to add to my Bachelors and my “most of a masters” with the intention of going on to an MPH in Epidemiology. I cannot really say this in public places, but I LOVE microbiology. The funnest job I’ve done to date has been studying and writing about waterborne viruses. I’m simply amazed that a single cell organism can bring down an organism made up of millions of cells.
Well, just wanted to say hello and thank all of you who have posted these great discussions. I’m totally encouraged by your stories.

Welcome! You’re never too old to learn and go back to school. Follow your dreams, heart, and desires. Don’t let anyone stop you! I’m with you on the micro thing. I loved the micro exposure I got during undergrad and in fact, if I hadn’t gotten into medschool this year, I would have seriously contemplated heading into a micro PhD program. It’s a fascinating area of science!

Welcome to OPM. You’ll only be too old when you’re dead!! I’m 41, will be 42 this year, and will start in January 2005 in the UK. So, after med school and residency, I’ll be 49!! (unless I change my mind about specialty ) Good luck,

Hey There!
Welcome. I am new to the site as well, and yes I can’t say it on the street either, but I love Micro too! You aren’t too old AT ALL! Its all in how old you feel as far as I’m concerned. I am still a baby and have my whole life ahead of me, I’m trying to map out the quest for med school now, I am an RN and I’m just not satisfied with the role I play in Health care. Go for it, and keep reading the stories and anecdotes on this site. There is soooooo much advice to take in. Good Luck!
~Jennifer RN

Welcome to the board! I’m always delighted to find someone who enjoys epidemiology here
I did want to make a suggestion to you, before you get too far down the road toward epidemiology. Based on what you said in your post, it sounds like you really enjoy the microbiology aspect best. In my experience, microbiologists and epidemiologists don’t really think quite the same way. In grad school (my MS is in Epidemiology) I’ve taken joint classes with the microbiology students, and had to do group papers with the groups mixed up between the micro and epi students. It was hilarious! You could see the difference in thinking and training immediately.
Do you enjoy statistics? Analyzing data for many hours on a computer? Designing studies where you can’t really control a lot of the variables? (That is the part that tends to drive the micro and clinical researchers nuts). If so, you’ll enjoy epidemiology. I’m just afraid that in your MPH program you might not get much micro at the level you enjoy (of course, MPH programs are quite variable-- you might be going into one where you could get plenty of exposure). Microbiologists and infectious disease epidemiologists work closely together, and the line gets blurred between the two, especially at the Ph.D level, where both have a lot of training in both disciplines, but I just wanted to suggest you look at both disciplines to see which you really enjoy the most. Would you rather be a microbiologist with training in epidemiological techniques, versus an infectious disease epidemiologist (where you might spend time doing disease outbreak investigations, but little pure microbiology)?
Anyway, welcome to the board!

Thank you for your questions as they have been swirling around in my brain unarticulated for quite some time. With regard to statistics and data analysis, the answer is yes, I do enjoy that stuff.
To give a bit more background, I’m close to finishing a masters with a focus on environmental epidemiology, which is my hard core love. I’m a big picture thinker and am currently working in a research nonprofit in gerontology developing designs, collecting data, etc. etc. etc. My love of microbiology extends more towards a fascination of how everything works rather than a desire to spend time in a lab.
That being said, I am really looking forward to doing the infectious disease investigations and hopefully one day will have a PhD to do so.
My first choice school is Yale, which fortunately has a more interdisciplinary approach to education that will allow me to do some microbio alongside statistics and water pollution studies. God willing .
Your clarification between the two mindsets is awesome, and hopefully it can help someone else who may be looking at this board thinking about epidemiology.